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Knowing New York and Manchester with Emma Hinds

  • Submitted: 7th January 2024

Knowing New York and Manchester with Emma Hinds

Emma is on her way

The kettle is on. I hope she brings biscuits.

She sent this ahead of her arrival. Nice. I hope powerful involves biscuits….

The Knowing banner

Emma Hinds

Emma Hinds

It did! Ah now then, let’s settle down and find out about The Knowing

Map of locations in The Knowing

When I first arrived in Manchester in 2014, moving to settle after nearly a decade of living in Scotland, I was enchanted by its canals. Perhaps it was a longing for the wide beach stretches of the Fife East Coast, but the running water through Manchester with its narrowboats and geese captured my imagination. They were the first inspiration for my debut novel, The Knowing, a historical queer fiction set in both 19th Century New York and Manchester. Both places are full of rich history, just waiting for an author to excavate them, but there was a particular joy in peeling back the past of the city that is my home.

Map of locations in The Knowing

In those first early days of canal walking when the plot of The Knowing was still forming in my mind, it felt natural to choose the late 1800’s as the period in which my Manchester story would be set. To walk through Manchester is to walk through the industrial revolution, to stretch out fingers to the red brick around you and touch the past.

Map of locations in The Knowing

Everywhere my main character, Flora, goes geographically in Manchester are real, historical places. Some spots are generic (a pie shop, a boarding house), places that were ten a penny at the time but all modelled on versions that I have read about. The beauty of living in a city built when my character was living is that the streets are largely the same. Thanks to online archives of photographs, I could even look back at places like Piccadilly gardens in the 1800s and see exactly how that large, green municipal space varies from the concrete overlay that exists today.

The Manchester Central Reference Library

Map of locations in The Knowing

For those parts of history that have since been paved over or destroyed, I am lucky to live in a city that has vigorous local history archives. The Manchester Central Reference Library was incredibly helpful; their exhibition on industrial local life gives no historical gloss to the lives of its citizens.

The People’s History Museum provides a global perspective; clarifying how the industry of Manchester was impossible without the stolen labour of the enslaved peoples around the world. When trying to write a true historical portrait of a city, having access to artefacts, documents and thoughtful historical commentary on your doorstep is invaluable.

Map of locations in The Knowing

Angel Meadow Dean Kirby

I am also greatly indebted to local historians for their work. Dean Kirby’s book Angel Meadows: Victorian Britain’s most savage slum was very helpful for me as I wrote about a place that was so significant in Manchester life and crime but no longer geographically exists. His work gave me guidance for representing the Scuttlers, a historical Irish-Mancunian gang that features in The Knowing. Kirby does a wonderful job of bringing the fights and battles in Angel Meadows to the present, and I modelled the character of Joe Callaghan, my Mancunian Scuttler who does business with Flora in The Knowing, on the true stories he tells.

Map of locations in The Knowing

Angel Meadows park and lane

Unfortunately, the readers of The Knowing can make no pilgrimage to The End of Erin in Angel Meadows, the pub in Manchester where Flora brings a ghost to life. Like all of the Victorian slums of that time, that area has been lost to city development. Whilst many of the grander Victorian buildings have survived, the places where Flora and Minnie lived and worked were much less grand and have been lost to the seeds of time. There are no blue plaques for the worst pub in a slum or a small tobacco shop by a factory.

Map of locations in The Knowing

Yet even as the city changes, the canals are the same. The places where Minnie and Flora had their best and their worst moments continue to flow through the city. It gives me joy to know that readers can visit Manchester and feel the ghosts of my characters in those watery road ways. I know that whenever I walk down the canals these days, I think of them.


Many thanks for that Emma!


BookTrail Boarding Pass: The Knowing


Twitter: @EmmaLouisePH

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